How to: Choose a realistic wedding budget

Previously on this blog, we talked a little bit about tight budgets and where you can find extra wiggle room (See Budget’s tight? Here are the first things to cut from your event.). Before you can focus on where to cut costs, or even on what your main priorities are for your event, first you have to create your overall ideal budget. For some people, a range of a few thousand dollars is okay, but others want to have a specific budget that is set in stone. Either way, finding that number that works for you and your spouse can be confusing if you’ve never planned a large event before. This post isn’t going to dive into what percentage of your budget should be allocated to each area, but rather will give you an idea of how to pick a overall wedding budget amount that works for you and your spouse.

Here are the things you will want to consider:

Industry Costs

Before anything else, you will want to find out how much each vendor typically costs in your area. This will help you create a budget that will be realistic, and thus help you stay within the budget you end up creating.

Income

How much money will you make in the length of your engagement that DOESN’T go to necessities (food, housing, etc)? Are you a spender or a saver? Where can you cut costs comfortably? You’ll want to consider how much you can realistically save to put towards your budget while still living comfortably.

Other Funds

Is there anyone other than you and your partner that will be contributing to your big day? If so, you will have to have upfront conversations with them about how much and where/how they will be contributing so that you can make your budget accordingly.

Guest Count

Typically, the more people you invite to your wedding, the more costly it will be. This very occasionally is not the case, but definitely think about your guest count when creating your budget.

Inclusions/Exclusions

Some people prefer for every wedding related expense to be part of the budget, while others are okay leaving a few things out. Think about what counts in your budget, and what will just be other costs outside of it. Do rings count? Does your honeymoon count? What about alterations to your attire? These are the main things that people tend to leave out, but it is important to think about how you will pay for everything, whether it is in the budget or not.

Priorities

When you envision your day, what stands out the most? People prioritize different things, such as food or photography, and the budget you create should reflect what is most important to you.

Date

If it is important to you to have your wedding on a certain date, the costs could reflect that. Off season weddings are significantly more inexpensive that mid-season weddings, so keep in mind your date, or at least the season you would like if you don’t have a date set.

Hidden/Extra Costs

Sometimes vendors have extra costs associated with services they perform (such as a corkage fee). It is a good idea to think about these and ask your vendors about hidden costs, so you can factor them in to your budget. In addition to this, it is a good idea to factor in vendor tips, as these can add a few hundred dollars, sometimes more.

Add Contingency

Contingency is just a fancy way of saying you’ll need extra money. This extra will allow for anything unexpected to still fall in your budget, where without it you could be going over.

Once you have figured out all of these factors, you should have a pretty good idea of what you should spend on your wedding for the budget to be realistic and comfortable. I’ll leave you here with something you’ve probably heard a thousand times, but please, please, don’t go into debt for your wedding. Weddings are a beautiful and exciting time, but they are just one day at the start of many with your new spouse.

The Average Wedding Day Timeline

Every wedding is unique in its priorities and therefore its overall timeline. Some couples choose to focus heavily on traditions during the ceremony making it longer, while other couples choose to keep it simple and short. Both options can be captivating and memorable, but the differences definitely impact the overall timeline of your wedding day. This same idea can be translated into getting ready, photo sessions, and your reception- everything in your timeline is dependent on how you personalize your day. Because of this, finding a timeline template for your day that fits with your exact vision can be difficult. If you hire a planner, they will most likely create your timeline for you in a way that is tailored to your day and ensures you have the best amount of time set out for each portion of your event. On the other hand, if a planner simply isn’t in your budget or your planner doesn’t offer this service, you may be looking for a place to start getting an idea of what your timeline could look like (congrats, you found it!).

Rather than creating an hour by hour timeline that can’t be translated to every couple’s wedding, I have created a basic list with each wedding day segment and how long it takes on average. This way, you can take these basic guidelines and apply them to your wedding by cutting out or adding in any segment, no matter what you want your day to look like.

Getting Ready/ Pre- Ceremony (5-7 hrs):

Bridal Hair and Makeup: Hair should take between 45m-1.5hrs (your hairdresser will be able to give you a better estimate once they know what style you are looking for), and makeup takes about 30m-1hr.

Bridesmaids Hair and Makeup: About 30m-1hr per bridesmaid should be enough, but this depends on how many bridesmaids to artists as well as the complexity of each look.

Getting dressed: 15-20m depending on photos.

Groom & Groomsmen: The men need only about 30m-1hr depending on what they need to do the morning of (usually it is just getting dressed, a few photos, and maybe shaving, so this is plenty of time).

Photos: 30m-1hr before the ceremony should be allotted for any bridal portraits as well as photos of the bride with her maids and the groom with his men

First look: If you are doing a first look you want to allot 1-1.5 hrs, depending again on how much time you need for photos (your photographer will be able to tell you how much time they need for your shots)

Ready to go: Though it seems like a silly thing, you want to give yourself 30m on the timeline before the ceremony begins to just be ready. This will give you extra time in case anything takes a little longer than expected so that your ceremony can still start on time. If you would like, this time can also be used to snap a few photos since everyone will be ready to go.

Ceremony (20m-1hr):

This depends pretty heavily on what traditions you want to include, and since they are so vast, having a chat with your officiant or planner will give you a good idea of how long each piece that you want to include will take. As a general rule, a simple ceremony with just a processional, welcome, vows, ring exchange, kiss, and then recessional will take 20-30m, and each tradition or ceremony you add after that usually takes about 5-10m.

Family and Bridal Party Photos (45m-1hr):

You want this step to go as fast as possible, as these are more formal photos that don’t tend to get looked at quite as often as the more creative portraits. Giving yourself 20-30m for family photos, and then another 20-30m for bridal party photos will be plenty of time as long as everyone knows they need to stick around for the photos.

Cocktail Hour (1-1.5hrs):

Some people choose to skip this step all together, especially if you have already done your portraits during a first look, but to allow more time for photos, having a cocktail hour where your guests can mingle is a good idea. Just make sure you don’t go over the 1.5hr mark, or your guests will start to get a little antsy,

Reception (4-6hrs):

Grand entrance: This step only takes about 5m, which gives you and your party time to enter and seat yourselves.

Meal: You want about 20-30m per course, this will give your guests enough time to chat and still enjoy each course.

Speeches/Toasts: Give each person making a toast a 5 minute limit (or better, give them a 3 or 4 minute limit, but allot 5m each expecting them to go over). You should have no more than 8 speeches (40m), but if you have this many, try to space them out if you can.

First dances: You want to allot 5m each for m/s, f/d, and first dance, which brings you to 15m.

Cake cutting: This only takes about 5m, and that gives you enough time to snap a few photos while doing so.

Bouquet/Garter toss: Give yourselves 5m each if you are including this step.

Dancing: You want to have at least 1.5hrs for dancing if you are having it, but this step can really go on as long as you like.

Grand exit: Depending on what you are doing for your exit, this step takes between 5-15m to get everyone ready and have you on your way.

There you have it! These are all the steps that you will have to include in your timeline, however, it is important to note that there are a lot of other steps going on within the set up (and tear down) of your event. This should be something your vendors will be able to coordinate, but if you want to have the vendor steps on your timeline as well, you can always chat with them to see how long they need for each portion of their tasks. Hopefully this was helpful to your planning, but if the task seems a little overwhelming once you see it on paper, feel free to use my Contact page to shoot me an email, as I offer timeline creation as a separate service if you are needing a little help!

Should you hire a planner?

There are many ways that event planners can assist you in creating your dream event. However, if you aren’t confident that you want to hire a planner, here are some key things to think about to help you decide.

Budget: Often times, hiring a planner can actually save you money because of the connections they have with vendors. However, if your budget is tight, you may just not reasonably be able to hire a planner and still have room in your budget for the other things you want at your event.

Organization: Maybe you love organization and planning, and the idea of planning a large event excites you! In this case, you can probably manage a simple wedding or event with the help of friends and family. If your event has a lot of vendors and a lot of details to pay attention to, you might want a planner to ensure you don’t miss out on anything you know you want for your event. If you aren’t the most efficient when it comes to being organized and keeping a schedule, or if you want an extra pair of eyes to make sure you haven’t missed a step, a planner is going to save you a lot of time and effort.

Clerical Work: Planning a wedding involves a lot of communication with a lot of people. If you like clerical work, you might not find it daunting to communicate with many vendors at the same time. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy checking emails, reading contracts, and keeping up with other forms of communication, it might be nice to have a planner who can take care of the majority of these tasks for you.

Vision: If you don’t have a clear vision of what you want your event to look like, having a planner especially in the beginning stages of planning can be key. Planners are trained to know how to creatively involve your interests and create a unique event that reflects your personality. You may already have a Pinterest board full of ideas, and in that case, you might be okay tackling those DIYs yourself to create your vision.

Other Responsibilities: Life gets busy, and if you have full time work or anything else that takes up the majority of your time, it might just not be practical to set aside a few hours a day to plan your event. Hiring a planner who has the time and knows how to work efficiently will be key to hosting the event you have been dreaming of.

Day-Of: As a general rule, it is always a good idea to have someone other than yourself that vendors or guests can come to with any questions on the day of the event. Maybe you have someone responsible close to you that could handle this task, but if you can’t think of anyone, or if you want your close friends and family to be able to relax and enjoy your event, it would be a good idea to hire a planner or coordinator, at least for the day of the event.

Hiring a planner is never a bad idea, as there are always ways that a planner can assist you and things that a planner may know that you might not think of. Hopefully, if you have been unsure of whether or not to hire a planner, this list gave you a little bit of clarity and you are closer to making your decision!

Budget’s tight? Here are the first things to cut from your event.

1. Your Guest List- If you want to save money on your event, consider cutting that guest list down. We all know events are expensive, and usually a higher guest list means a higher cost.

2. Stationery- For the most part, your guests won’t be keeping your stationery after the event. You can always cut down on stationery costs by reducing the amount of stationery you will have at your event, or by choosing simpler designs for the pieces you need. Evites are also becoming a more popular option, so if you are open to going this route you can save hundreds on postage and stationery fees.

3. Cake- You can have your elaborate dream cake displayed, but if you want to cut costs, consider having a few fake tiers- professional bakers will be familiar with arranging these to look seamless- and then serving slab cakes from the kitchen.

4. Florals- Don’t worry, I am not telling you that you can’t have any flowers at your wedding! However, there are many flower options for more affordable arrangements, and very often there are non-floral centerpiece and décor options that will suit your theme.

5. Alcohol- This is a huge budget-eater, and there are a few options for how you can lower the cost, such as having a toonie bar instead of an open bar, or serving just wine and signature drinks with dinner.

Ultimately, your priorities for your event will be unique to your vision for the day, but there are always options to lower costs while still hosting a beautiful event!

A Little Bit About Me

Planning special events can be incredibly personal, and if you are anything like me, it helps to get to know someone’s personality before you decide whether you want to work with them! The purpose of this post is to tell you a bit about myself, both the personal and business sides, so you can get a feel for who you will be sharing these special parts of your life with.

I grew up in a big family in the suburbs with my parents and 4 siblings. This made me quite the people person, and helped me to relate to people of varying ages and beliefs. Even though I love spending time around people, I am an introvert at heart and I love to recharge by watching tv or reading a good book with a nice cup of tea. I am obsessed with watermelon, my cat, Pickles, and I will never not want a good fruit pie. I think my jokes are hilarious, and my husband laughs to make me feel better about them. I love love, and I think everyone deserves to be loved and accepted for what makes them who they are.

A little over a year ago, I married my amazing husband Jake. We planned a fully outdoor wedding at the end of April and it ended up being one of the coldest days that month (hello snow). We ended up having to move our reception indoors last minute, and with the help of our amazing family and friends, everything turned out even better than we could have hoped. Our wedding taught me that no matter how worried you are of the things that can go wrong, your day will turn out exactly how it should, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

As a planner, it is my job-among a million other things- to make sure there are backup plans in place, and to deal with any changes that need to happen so you can sit back and enjoy your day. Of course, if it is something as big as a venue change on the day of like mine was, you will be part of that decision, but for the most part, my job is to make sure that you aren’t aware of any problems until they are resolved. My goal in planning your event is to give you the day YOU are dreaming of. There may be suggestions I can give and advice I can offer when asked, but my dream as a planner is to ensure that we are executing your dream day and not anyone else’s. My hope for my business is that I can help those planning to host events to be able to be present on the day of their event, so they can have memories of the feelings that were there, the people that they talked to, and so much more. Planning an event yourself is definitely possible- though it is a lot of work- but when you plan your own event you too often end up missing out on experiencing it because you are busy managing things as the day unfolds. I want to help you by achieving your vision through the planning process, and then letting you step back on the day of to enjoy all that we have planned.

I hope that reading this has helped you to get to know me a bit better, and to help you understand my dream for planning your event with you!

Thanks for reading,

Jenna ❤